Rockingham: Winning driver press conference

MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE GOING TO HAVE TO REACT COMING OFF OF FOUR? "Before the middle of the corner you're already wide open anyway. I got a little loose up off of four. I knew he was a little...

MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus

WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOU WERE GOING TO HAVE TO REACT COMING OFF OF FOUR?

"Before the middle of the corner you're already wide open anyway. I got a little loose up off of four. I knew he was a little bit lower, but I didn't really pay that much attention. I figured as long as I can get into three in front of him, there's no way he was gonna beat me off four down the straightaway. So I was surprised he had that big of a run. I was probably halfway from turn four to the finish line before I looked down and saw his nose was up by the door. I was like, 'Man, he's gaining momentum on me.' So I probably did the wrong thing, I turned right. The line is a little bit of an angle, but I actually turned right to get away from his car so he couldn't pull the air off my door and fill my wheel wells there and slow me down, so I tried to get away from him as much as I could and just hold it wide open. I was surprised because I didn't expect that. I expected him to make a last-ditch effort, but I didn't expect it to be there. I didn't expect him to get that good of a run, so it was kind of a surprise and I was glad we made it back there."

DID YOU HAVE A VIEW OF MARK'S RESTART?

"I didn't see any of it, so I can't really comment on it too much. I will say that all day we were getting really good restarts. Every time we got a restart when we were in the lead I cleared the lap-down car every single time getting into turn one. By the end of the backstretch I had a 10 or 15 car length lead and the lapped car was in between me and the second-place car every single time. So I don't think it was something different. I know Mark pretty well and even if it's me, he isn't gonna do something that's gonna hurt his reputation. You know how he drives. I don't really think he did that (block), but I didn't see it so I don't really know. There was one restart where Robby Gordon was in between me and the second-place guy for 35 laps. They're doing what they can to stay the first car a lap down and get that lucky dog thing, so I'm sure he was trying to stay in that position. But the short answer is, no, I didn't see it."

DID YOU HAVE A SENSE OF SECURITY TODAY?

"That's exactly what happened with not making adjustments. We were so good in the middle of the race that I didn't want to do something to the car that would be hard to reverse - like pulling a spring rubber or going too far on something and getting behind. We were so good in the middle of the race. There wasn't anybody that I felt like that could run with us the first 300 laps. I should have adjusted on it more. The car was giving me every sign that I needed to get better traction up off the corner and I just couldn't figure out how to do that without hurting the middle of the corner. I thought we were gonna be OK for a short run, but we weren't. We were too loose and I almost gave that race away because we didn't adjust on the car the way we should have. It would have been really hard for me to face me crew that had those perfect pit stops and kept me up front all day if I would have lost that thing in the last hundred yards."

IS IT A RELIEF TO WIN AGAIN?

"Yeah, it feels great to come here and be able to win right out of the box and lead all those laps. That didn't look like us. Usually we don't lead all those laps. Even if we win, we usually sneak up kind of at the end and we had such a strong car, so it feels good to do that because, obviously, some people wrote or some people have said that we can't lead laps and win races, and we just finish seventh every week. So it was great to go dominate the race the way we did. Even though we didn't dominate at the end, it was really fun for me to dominate the middle of the race, and also because we had so much stuff go on over the winter. We got the same pit crew together. We didn't lose any people and they've been practicing really hard. They showed what they were made of down there today and never lost a spot. They kept me in the lead and gained me spots when we were behind all day. The new body that Ford has and the engine program and all the stuff we've got going, I've been so excited to get to the track. I thought we were capable of this, so it feels good to me to come here and be able to do this so early in the year."

THOUGHTS ON POSSIBLY LOSING THIS TRACK?

"I don't like change a lot. I like things the way they are. I like historic places and the roots of it. I understand the need to market the sport to more people and to go to other cities and have a bigger TV number. I understand all of what they're trying to do, but just as a plain racer, it's sad for me because I love racing here. Even if we ran bad here, I'd still love coming here because it's such a different track. There are only two of them left on the schedule where the tires wear out as much as they do and the cars slide as much as they do. It's like you're driving on ice at the end of the run and you really have to have a good chassis setup. The aerodynamics don't really mean everything and the engine doesn't really mean everything. You have to have a good mechanical setup that has grip in the car and keep it balanced. There's so many different things you can do from a driver's standpoint and from a setup standpoint and that's really a challenge more so than what we have at a lot of the new types of tracks they're building. It's sad that there's only one race here. I'm glad we won the one race they had this year and hopefully we'll be able to get the attendance here to be able to keep racing here."

WERE YOU CONCERNED YOU WEREN'T ON THE LEAD LAP ON THE LAST PIT STOP?

"I was concerned a little bit because I'm a worry-wart and I worry about everything. I was maybe 60 percent concerned because of the situation that happened earlier. I was actually farther ahead of the leader this time and the same situation happened earlier in the race, so I felt good about where we were when the caution came out - that we were farther ahead of the leader than we were the first time when we were still on the lead lap. I felt good about all those things. I thought it would have been hard to present a case to show me that it was right the first time and wrong the second time. I've got to applaud NASCAR because they took their time and they figured it out. The field freezes now when the yellow comes out, so it's a little bit different than it used to be. We were ahead of the line. We were ahead of the leader. They did it right the first time. They did it right the second time and they took the time to correct the situation with the 9 and put him back on the lead lap too. That was the right thing to do, so I applaud them for taking the time and sorting that all out so the finish was the correct one with the right cars in the right place."

WERE YOU AWARE DURING THE STOP?

"Both stops I heard it. On the first stop we were just getting around to the left side and on the second one we were still on the rights just coming to the lefts. I actually yelled two tires, so I'm glad they didn't listen to me and they did what they were trained to do because we would have had to come back down and we would have been the last car on the lead lap and we wouldn't have won the race. So they did the absolute right thing and they did their job and finished it. We left pit road and didn't speed and came out because I could kind of see what was going on. I knew what happened the first time, so didn't speed so I wouldn't get any penalties and got back out in front of those guys. You always see the officials because they're always waving their hands right away when the yellow comes out, so I kind of saw that and then our spotter tells us the yellow is out and what's going on."

THOUGHTS WHEN THE 9 WENT FROM A LAP DOWN TO BACK ON THE LEAD LAP?

"I saw him back there. I sort of knew he was in the same boat as us, but I didn't know for sure that he pitted the same lap or the next lap or if they had a slow stop or what the situation was. So when I left pit road, the pace car was about even with me and I just kept on getting it and got caught up to the tail end because I knew back here where the race is scored I was way ahead of everybody and I didn't want to speed. The pace car runs faster than pit road speed, so I think when he pulled off pit road he was probably fourth or fifth in line instead of along the pace car or just barely in front of him, so he probably just pulled up in line and figured he was a lap down. That was the right thing to do to let NASCAR correct it and not pass the pace car and do all that stuff. But, yeah, when I saw him coming around and they put him right behind me and he had four new tires and was in the same boat as us, I was a little bit more concerned because he caught the 42. The 42 was real stout on a short run, too. I think he would have given me as much trouble as the 9 because he was right there at the end, but I knew the 9 had a really strong car last fall and dominated the race. I knew they were gonna be tough again."

HOW DOES IT FEEL AFTER WINNING ONLY ONCE LAST YEAR?

"It feels good to come out of the box and win right away. I touched on that a little bit earlier. It feels good to do that. I don't think there was much bad you could say about our year last year and that was one of the most common things they talked about, so whenever you can do something that's good and maybe prove people wrong or prove that we can do things it always feels good."

DID THE NON-REGULARS DO A GOOD JOB TODAY?

"Yeah. Everybody around me did a good job of being respectful to the leaders and giving us a lane all the time. Sometimes that's difficult to do here because typically on a long run we run right against the wall in three and four and on the bottom in one and two, so it's hard to get out of the way when you're running all over the race track as the leader. So I thought they did a good job. I don't know what happened with that wreck on the backstretch, but they did a good job."

DID THE SPOILER AFFECT TODAY'S RACE?

"I don't think it affected it much here, really. For our cars I felt good about it because I felt like we were really aero-balanced and I feel like Robbie and Chip and everybody at the shop did the right thing with our cars the way we built them and the different things we did to get our aero-balance right. I feel like we got it right even though it's a little harder to tell here just because the mechanical grip comes into play a little more than aerodynamics. I think it'll be good. It won't be bad. The cars are gonna turn better and I think the racing will be a little bit better."

WHY WERE YOU SO FAST ON RESTARTS?

"I don't know - because I was the first one in line? I don't know. We had a little different transmission that we've run here the last couple times. I know it's a little different than what some of my teammates run and it was an advantage to have that when we were in the front. The stuff would stay hooked up and the motor ran real good and I tried to be careful not to spin the tires and we could just get away. We could do that all day for some reason. We really seemed to be strong on those restarts and that helped a lot because when you're on fresh tires and full of gas and low pressures, it's nice not to have somebody right on your bumper."

HOW WERE THE LAST COUPLE OF LAPS?

"This place is real fast. You carry a lot of speed, but it does drive like a short track. When the tires get worn out and slippery - the easiest way I can explain it is when you first go out and drive it's like you're on 15-inch soft tires and the car is just stuck. In about 20 laps it feels like you're on gravel and in about 50 laps it feels like you're on ice, so it's kind of like when you make those longer runs it's like running a 100-lap feature at your local short track where those bias-ply tires will wear out the right rear and they'll get looser and looser and looser and you have to be careful with your tires and do the right thing. To me, that's really a challenge and a lot of fun."

ANY IDEA YOUR CAR WOULD BE THIS GOOD AFTER FRIDAY?

"I had a feeling we'd run pretty good. I didn't know we'd run as good as we did today. I've been driving my wife crazy and everybody around me. I've been almost giddy for the last two months just because I've been so looking forward to this year more so than any other year. I know I touched on it earlier, but we didn't lose any team members. The over the wall guys - this is their second year together - and they just did a flawless job today. The Taurus got some upgrades and that will get us closer to the GM products. Jack and Robert doing their engine program - we thought that was gonna be a little better. And I thought the smaller spoiler and all that was gonna benefit Jeff Burton and Mark Martin and my driving style. I thought that would come into play more like in '98 with those short spoilers and Mark and Jeff won all those races. I thought maybe that would help us a little bit with that smaller tire because of chassis setups and things like that, so everything was kind of aligned at the start of this year. I thought we could go out and do these things and I think everybody at Roush is gonna go do a lot of great things this year. So I've been anxiously awaiting getting to the tracks. I've been waiting to get to the downforce tracks and see what we had and it was nice today to come out and see that the stuff we did over the winter was right."

PIT STOPS WERE BIG. COULD YOU HAVE MADE IT UP IF YOU WERE FURTHER BACK IN THE FIELD?

"We'll never know. It's an advantage to be in the front, but we did start 23rd and the first run we made we made tremendous gains. I don't know what we drove up to, but we drove up to the top 10 anyway - seventh or something - and drove to lead the second run shortly thereafter. We caught all those guys and passed them, so I knew we had one of the best cars on the track. If we would have come out of the pits sixth with 30 laps to go, no, we probably wouldn't have won, but the important thing is we didn't. We had a good car early and through the middle of the race. I didn't do the best job of adjusting on it at the end the way I should have because we were running so good and that's something I've got to learn from and try to do a better job next time. But we had great car all day. We had a car that would pass cars and this isn't a hard track to pass on. If you're faster than the guy in front of you, you can pass him."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Robby Gordon